Published in the Rains County Leader on February 23, 2021:
The Snowpocalypse of 2021 has been a challenge to all of us – some more than others. While many report spending days without heat and water, David and I experienced only two days of rolling blackouts, and we had no water outages. We’re now under a “Boil Water Notice,” but that’s only a minor inconvenience.
TV, on the other hand, was a major difficulty. As the thermometer fell, so did our Internet speed – and since our television reception comes through the Internet, we received mostly nothing. Without access to email, social media, and other digital entertainment, and having no desire to go outside and frolic in the snow, we searched for ways to amuse ourselves. David didn’t want to trek across the street for coffee, so we read a lot, I wrote a bit, David paced the floor, and we both looked out the windows.
Our neighbors were cocooned inside their houses, too, so they did nothing to relieve the boredom. In contrast, the wildlife was very interesting. Monday morning I saw Kitty in her predatory stance staring intently out the front window. A bird had found a thin spot close to the front porch and was doing a little dance that involved a couple of scratching steps, which sent dried leaves flying, followed by a peck which hopefully scored a tasty bug or seed. There was a catchy rhythm to the dance, and where Kitty saw a potential snack, I saw a demonstration of what a little spunk and ingenuity can accomplish.
Later in the week I glanced out the kitchen window and saw a small hole in the snow with a fuzzy dome on top. My first thought was that a bird had fallen to a snowy death. Then the dome began to move and a nose popped out. Is that a rat? I thought, until I saw a furry tail appear. It was a squirrel, and he was looking for an acorn he buried earlier. His little paws flung leaves out of the hole until he found what he was after. He examined it closely, stuffed it into his mouth, and ran up a nearby tree. A couple of days later we saw a bird in a similar hole, but he was doing the scratch and peck dance I had seen earlier. He seemed to be having a grand time, and I marveled at how Texas critters knew how to do such things.
We hadn’t seen much lately of the orange and gray cat who was a frequent overnight guest on our front porch furniture back in the fall. I saw her walk across the yard a time or two, and we saw occasional evidence of an overnight stay, but she wasn’t a regular any more. Then on Monday I caught sight of her walking toward the back of the house where she crawled under the bottom step and disappeared. I tried to follow her tracks (from the warmth of the dining room) to see where she came from, but it appeared that she had come from under the house, made it about six feet and changed her mind.
David was about to make a polar excursion to take out the garbage and check on the septic system sprinkler heads. I talked him into taking a small bowl of cat food and scooting it under the steps. Then we both crossed our fingers that she would get a few bites before something bigger and meaner took it away from her.
I saw her a two or three times later in the week. Once she was sitting at the bottom of the steps taking in the scenery, and another time she ventured further but, again, turned around. I braved the back steps twice to take more food to her, and one day the empty bowl was pushed out into the snow as if requesting a refill. I guess word got around about the free handouts because she had a couple of visitors. Neither stayed very long, though, so hopefully she was able to stand her ground and protect her stash.
The most interesting display happened around noon on Friday. I caught sight of a squirrel, and after a few minutes, I discerned a pattern in his movements. He would run up one tree, take a small connecting branch to an adjoining tree, and run down the trunk to some small branches. He’d go out to the very end onto twigs barely big enough to support his weight where he apparently found nuts that were not worth the trouble to retrieve when supplies were plentiful. He’d cram one into his mouth and then retrace his steps and disappear behind a bulging branch – probably into a nest.
He did this continuously until I had finished my lunch – and then he stopped. After a couple of minutes, another squirrel came out. He was smaller with a belly that was more orange than the first one, and he wasn’t as sure-footed. He made a couple of runs before the other squirrel reappeared. The bigger one issued some orders, and both of them went back inside, hopefully for a snack and a warm nap.
Now we’re back to more normal weather patterns, and the critters are back to more normal behavior patterns. More squirrels are racing around, more birds are out and about, and a few deer came for a nibble of the tasty greens that are visible again. But the memories linger, and I’ll always remember seeing how the Creator provided for creatures who had never even seen a snowflake.
He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry. Psalm 147:9